Dungannon’s hopes of becoming the first Tyrone club to win back to back LCC senior titles since 2005 ended on Monday night when they lost to Dromore after a thriller at O’Neills Healy Park. The Tyrone club championship has served up some incredible games over the years and Monday night’s classic ranks up there with the best of them. This was Gaelic football played at its best with skill, energy, commitment, passion, honesty and courage on show in bucket loads.
The Clarkes began as if they were on fire. Their pace, directness and strong running split open the Dromore defence time and again in the opening ten minutes as they raced into a 2-4 to 0-2 lead. Paul Donaghy, James Morgan and Ryan Jones got the early points while Paddy Quinn and Donaghy both found the net in a blistering start. Dromore were just about holding on as their championship hopes seemed set to end. Emmett Mc Nabb pointed to stem the flow and gave Dromore a foothold as they set about getting themselves back into the game.
Ryan Mc Cusker and Sean Mc Nabb got among the scores as Dromore steadied the ship and with twenty eight minutes on the clock they trailed the champions by three 2-5 to 0-8. Dungannon then broke for their third goal of the game as the marauding Paidi Mc Nulty found the net to put them six clear again. No sooner had the cheers died down than Dromore hit the net themselves when Tiarnan Sludden got in behind the Clarkes defence to finish to the net and send the sides in at the break with three points between them.
The second half saw more of the same as both teams went for it. Points from Niall Sludden (2) and the outstanding Emmett Mc Nabb drew the sides level as Dungannon found themselves on the back foot. They were struggling to win primary possession from their own kick outs and Dromore made them pay. Paul Donaghy steadied the ship with a brace of scores for the Clarkes to put them ahead again. Then came one of the most important moments of the game when veteran Eoin Mc Cusker entered the field as a blood sub. Dromore’s longest serving player rolled the years back with a superb display of hard running, score taking and leadership. His team mates responded to his promptings and for the first time Dromore looked like likely winners.
Clarkes captain Paidi Mc Nulty hit the net for his second goal and Dungannon moved four clear but Dromore refused to yield. Peter Teague came up from full back and pointed just before the second water break to once again reduce the gap to three.Dromore goalkeeper Mark Mc Gale converted a 45 before Andrew Mc Grath struck for a superb goal to put Dromore in front again. Once again county man Paul Donaghy proved his worth with another brace of scores to push Dungannon in front again. Back came Dromore. Sean Mc Nabb, who was outstanding throughout, clipped over a superb point but Oisin Cowan responded to put the Clarkes ahead again. Mc Cusker and Donaghy swapped scored before Sean Mc Nabb pointed to take the game into extra time.
Nobody was complaining though as the large crowd sat to collect their breath and referee Shane Meehan prepared to start the first half of extra time. With tired limbs and stretched resources scores were harder to get in extra time. Paul Donaghy and Eoin Mc Cusker swapped points before Dromore pushed for home and scores from Mc Cusker (2), Andrew Mc Grath and Peter Teague sealed the win for Colm Mc Cullagh’s side on a final score of 2-22 to 4-12.